Owning your ‘smart city’



An international seminar recently held in Xi’an, China delved on the search for the definition of a “smart city.” This seminar gathered academicians, scientists, engineers, IT experts, entrepreneurs and urban planners from Asia and Europe who discussed about “smart cities” in Asia. Present were experts from Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, South Korea, Mongolia, India, Thailand, China, Taiwan and Germany.

As the culminating activity of the seminar, participants were to come up with their own definition of a “smart city.” Now back in Manila, I posed the question to my MBA and international business students: what’s your definition of a “smart city?”
Here’s what they said:

One student said a “smart city” is a place where one feels safe, where pollution is low, with a well-developed infrastructure, and where education is accessible to everyone.

Another one asserted, all that is needed to become a “smart city” is good governance that will attract investors and tourists, lower crime rate and corruption, and educate the people.

A very novel idea of a “smart city”, according to a student, is one that will cultivate instead of limit creativity and innovative ideas. She cited a distinguishing characteristic of a “smart city” as a city of trust, where groups of people working in different fields and networks understand and rely on each other’s abilities.

What intrigued me most was another student who questioned the notion that a city that is not developed in terms of technology, infrastructure, and transportation lacks the potential to achieve the basic essentials of a “smart city.”

She commented that it would be unfortunate to take this limited idea ahead and perceive cities in countries like Thailand, India, the Philippines and Indonesia to be out of the “smart city” league just because they take the backseat in the train of advancement. Where culture is preserved and patronized, she added, advancements thrive and bring about principles and belief systems that allow men to act rationally and logically.

She concluded that physical development, coupled with education and its marked impact in the long term, bring about a conducive environment to live in where progress is measured by the amount of technological advancement, and the quality of life of the “smart city’s” population.

Finally, here’s yet another take on what is a “smart city” from a friend of mine. To quote: “As a film fest and concert junkie, I’d like to dream of a beloved Metro Manila that will allow its people to walk safely on the streets, with sidewalks and a good drainage system so the gutters don’t well up even during isolated spurts of heavy rainfall. Add an efficient mass transport system with access to favorite destinations that feed the mind, body and spirit.”

All these, while the Hotdog band’s hit tune “Manila, Manila” plays in mind.

Dr. Beatriz Kaamino Tschoepke teaches Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management at the De La Salle University Ramon V. Del Rosario College of Business. She lectures at the University of Asia & the Pacific in the areas of International Business & Economics and Marketing Management. She is a professional intercultural trainer and consultant of international business, international marketing, and business development. You may e-mail her at beatriz.tschoepke@dlsu.edu.ph.


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